Farm Gate? Fair Trade?
A recent study in the Netherlands found that despite the higher prices consumers were being charged for Fairtrade coffee, less than 12% of that money was actually reaching the growers. That is, very little of the revenue they generated by producing the coffee was making back to their countries. The study actually found that growers received a higher profit percentage for non Fairtrade coffee (often because it was higher quality). Fairtrade is extraordinarily successful at making well off westerners feel warm, caring and socially responsible, and that they are making a difference in the worldwide plight of the poor. There are a number of issues to question regarding Fairtrade's claim to making life better for farmers in the developing world. Generous and concerned western consumers pay more than 1.7 billion US dollars per year EXTRA for Fairtrade products. For every bag or box of product with the Fairtrade sticker or logo on it, 10 cents goes to Fairtrade and its parent company Transfair USA. And retailers on average charge an extra 65 cents per package for products with the Fairtrade logo attached (while paying only 10 cents for this "priveledge".) Wow, how nice and caring can you get?
Farm Gate Coffee is the name of the direct trade coffee buying program where we buy our specialty coffees. Farm gate pricing means that prices have been negotiated directly between our supplier and the farmer. The prices paid for our beans are FAR above Fairtrade minimums. With our Farm gate coffees, it can be easily verified that the fair prices paid for the coffees make it directly to the people who do the work, and who are responsible for the great cup quality of our coffee. Farm gate is a simple principle that allows coffee growers to receive premium prices in reward for producing quality coffee, and to reinvest to improve coffee quality even more in the future. Farm Gate pays at least 50% over Fair Trade (FT) pricing, but often they are 100%+ more that FT minimums. We acknowledge that FT has done some good, a good start for some. Fair Trade is a co-op certification - that is, it does not allow certification for small independent farms and farmers- it is for co-ops only. We do support coffee co-ops, but they are often not what consumers might think. There are many excellent co-ops, and many others that are large, powerful, corrupt, and mired in bureaucracy. Farm Gate avoids the bureaucracy of co-ops that sometimes do not share premium prices with their farmer members. Fair Trade certifies that the co-operative received the FT price, but it does not guarantee that the men and women who produce your coffee were paid the FT price. Fair Trade is also not based on the quality of the product, so in many ways it has a commodity mindset at its core, that coffee is coffee, just like corn is corn.
On the flip side, bear in mind that FT is a global standard, is verified by certifiers that make regular (if infrequent) visits to the coops. Farm gate does not have a third-party certifier. Instead they substitute direct involvement at ground level in the buying process with farms, and know exactly what the farmers receive. In this arrangement, exporters and importers have a changing role, offering a service as logistics coordinators (and an important one at that) rather than coffee resellers. Any coffee bought from a importer/broker list does not qualify for Farm Gate.
Please enjoy our high quality specialty coffee, roasted and brewed in house with the knowledge that it doesn't cost 10¢ to put our label on a coffee bag, which is the FT advertising fee on top of all other fees, that goes to its parent company, Transfair USA.